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do you believe in miracles?
how one game helped change america
by todd w bush
6.18.04
sports

Sports have always been an important thread in the fabric that is America. From the turn of the twentieth century, the people of this nation have turned to sports as a release, as a diversion, and yes even sometimes as a crutch. During the Depression, baseball gave the country something to look forward to when it seemed as if America couldn’t see more than a day into it’s collective future. The Babe, the Iron Horse, and the rest of the major leaguers were larger than life characters that seemed as familiar as friends when the radio calls flowed into living rooms.

When the 1960’s came around and it appeared as if the nation would rip itself apart with pent-up aggression and anger, the National Football League brought a new pastime into our lives. The Super Bowl would quickly become an unofficial holiday for the United States. The giants of the gridiron had names that resonated awe and created idols within hearts and minds in kids of all ages. Bradshaw, Unitas, Mean Joe Greene, Jim Brown, and Lombardi became the heroes everyone wanted to not only meet, but also to be.

However, when the 1970’s came to an end, America was at a crossroads in it’s history. The beginning of year nineteen hundred and eighty was marked by the increasing economic recession, a major problem with lack of fuel, and a hostage crisis that had the national reeling. The Soviet Union was at that time thought to be our equal, if not superior. Sure, we had beaten them to the moon, but who knew how many nuclear missles they had. Many press outlets led the American people to believe that every major city was a target for complete annihilation, and that the entire world was a push of a button away from falling under the all-powerful paw of the Soviet bear.

In February of 1980 however, one event seemed to signal a change in American fortune. A rag-tag bunch of nobodies entered the Olympics with as almost no chance of winning a medal. They weren’t even the best players in their own country, much less the world. On the contrary they were chosen not for their talent level but for their heart. Head coach Herb Brooks put together a team that the epitome of the nation that they represented: grit, hard work, and a spirit that would never let them quit. They came into the Olympic tournament like the revolutionary army had entered into battle against the red coats of England, without a chance in the world.

But like those minutemen of old, the US hockey team kept fighting and managed get a chance in the semi-final game. Just to make it that far was an accomplishment, but Brooks wouldn’t let the team think that. He kept pushing, kept coaching, and kept motivating. In a game that Vegas bookies probably wouldn’t even take odds on, the Americans took on the mighty Soviet Union. Comparing the Soviet team to a team nowadays would be nearly impossible; only the “Dream Team” US Olympic basketball team would come close. They were simply put the greatest hockey team in the world, a machine that steamrolled over opponents with a regularity that gave them the much deserved moniker of “unbeatable.” Al Michaels from ABC sports had the call of the game on television and as the seconds ticked down on the US’s 4-3 win, his famous words are certainly the best way to describe the enormity of what the Americans accomplished: “Do you believe in miracles? Yes!”

For those who saw the game, it was on such a magnitude that they would forever remember where they were, who they watched the game with, and what they did as the clock reached double zero. The United States had beaten the mighty Russians. For the first time since the 1972 Olympics and the “stolen” gold medal in basketball, we could claim dominance over our Cold War adversaries. It was a truly golden moment for American sports, but it was more than that. After the game was over, and “America’s Team,” as the team had become, had won the gold medal a day later against Finland, things began to change all over the country.

In November, Ronald Reagan was elected president, bringing with him a positive outlook that radiated throughout the nation. The hostages were released in Beirut. Slowly but surely, the American economy started to show signs of life. And the consensus opinion was that not only was the democracy and freedom of our the United States superior to communism, but the “Evil Empire” might just be defeated. The optimism grew with every passing year, rolling through the decade, continuing through tragedies such as the space shuttle Challenger, and bolstering the American spirit to levels not seen since World War II> When the decade started to come to an end, and the Soviet Union started to crumble, it wasn’t something Americans looked at with awe and wonderment, but with a knowing certainty. We knew we would win.

There were many factors in the fall of communism, and for certain a single hockey game a decade before wasn’t one of them. But just perhaps, the “Miracle on Ice” stirred some things in the American soul that helped bring about a shift in the country’s attitude toward not only the Soviet Union, not only the world, but toward ourselves. That one hockey game may have stirred to life a deeply felt pride and belief in our country, our way of life. An improbable bunch of never-would-be’s banded together to do the impossible and made America believe in miracles.


ABOUT TODD W BUSH

Todd's background includes military service, a stint at a movie theater, and getting turned down for a date by Sandra Bullock. All things that make him totally unqualified to be a writer. However, now that he's getting married in November, that might just do it.

more about todd w bush

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